The 76ers did not score in the final 1:37 of their 102-94 playoff loss to the Celtics on Friday, which put them in a 3-0 series hole from which they appear incapable of coming back.
They're at a crossroads as a franchise and at risk of coming apart faster than the process through which they were put together. Their dysfunction throughout the 2019-20 season does not look like it has tightened their bond at the very end as happens with some chaotic, but talented, teams. After this season mercifully ends, Joel Embiid and injured forward Ben Simmons will have to spend the coming months listening to trade rumors rather than feeling comfortable with the direction of their organization.
After Philadelphia's latest defeat against Boston, which ended with a 10-0 Celtics run and Kemba Walker dagger, coach Brett Brown threw down a chair. There was dejection in the voices of the team's stars during postgame interviews.
"We couldn't make a shot. Nothing would go in," Embiid told reporters. "I thought defensively we were good. ... It sucks when you play super hard and feel like you do everything possible to win games ... and come up short."
Said Tobias Harris of the locker room mood: "Frustration, upset, disappointment, everything you can imagine."
The 76ers believed they could be NBA Finals contenders by this point. If they lose this series, then they'll have failed to reach the Eastern Conference semis after losing at that stage the previous two years.
Embiid has averaged 30 points and 13 rebounds over his three games against Boston. His help has been limited because of the struggles of highly paid forwards Harris and Al Horford. Harris, whose calling card is offensive production, has been particularly bad, shooting 32.8 percent from the field and missing all 10 of his 3-point attempts.
Unless something changes in Game 4, the 76ers are on a collision course with a four-game goodbye.
For Embiid, the downfall is hard to come to terms with.
"I don't want to be swept," he said. "I don't want that on my resume. I'll be playing my butt off and come in and do everything that I can so that we can win a game."